Caesar Augusto: Pinochet reviews troops inside the presidential palace in Santiago.
Martin Thomas / Courtesy Reuters

On September 9, 1973, I was eating lunch at Da Carla, an Italian restaurant in Santiago, Chile, when a colleague joined my table and whispered in my ear: “Call home immediately; it’s urgent.” At the time, I was serving as a clandestine CIA officer. Chile was my first overseas assignment, and for an eager young spymaster, it was a plum job. Rumors of a military coup against the socialist Chilean president, Salvador Allende, had been swirling for months. There had already been one attempt. Allende’s opponents were taking to the streets. Labor strikes and economic disarray made basic necessities difficult to find. Occasionally, bombs rocked the capital. The whole country seemed exhausted and tense. In other words, it was exactly the kind of place that every newly minted CIA operative wants to be.

I ducked out of the restaurant as discreetly as I could and headed to the CIA station

This article is part of our premium archives.

To continue reading and get full access to our entire archive, you must subscribe.

  • JACK DEVINE is Founding Partner and President of the Arkin Group. During a 32-year career at the CIA, he served as both Acting Director and Associate Director of the agency’s operations outside the United States. This essay is adapted from Good Hunting: An American Spymaster’s Story (Sarah Crichton Books, 2014), which he wrote with Vernon Loeb.
  • More By Jack Devine